Anniversaries of important events are times for remembering and other things good and bad, including reminding oneself of the dangers of misplaced trust and overconfidence. Forty-five years ago, October 16, 1972, two Congressmen on the campaign trail were lost somewhere in Alaska. They had trusted their pilot to get them from Anchorage to Juneau.
It started out as no more than a lark in 1999. Fly through the midnight of the old millennium into the new. Our family would view the public and private fireworks displays ushering in Y2K from a different perspective – through the windows of our Cessna 172.
Before the engine blew, it was making a repetitive cyclical type noise; it wasn’t high pitched, it was kind of like the sound of a card flapping on a set of bicycle spokes, going fairly rapidly, getting painfully louder and louder to the point it seemed like my headset was not muffling the noise at all as the big end of the number 2 rod broke and the piston was beaten against the crank case.
On March 6, 1987, I was working the Inflight One radio position at the Anchorage Flight Service Station. Cessna 98 Golf had somehow made it above the Alaska Range and now at high altitude, with no clearance and with minimal navigational gear or flight instrumentation, and possibly no supplemental oxygen, found himself in the soup.
My initial interest in the “crash” was professional. Did I perform professionally? Could I have done anything to prevent it? What was I responsible for? I was one of the last people who did not die with him to speak to the pilot.